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9 Goal setting strategies for creatives: how to visualise & reach your dreams in a way that works for you

Creative Business
min read
In this article

Goals. You either love them or hate them.

Whether you’ve set goals before and they’ve never really stuck, or you’ve just been so busy working in your business that you never stopped to set any goals in the first place.

Wherever you’re at, I promise you that setting goals will help you grow your creative business as long as you find the right way of setting goals that feels good for you.

There are loads of ways you can set goals. Chances are, if your goals haven’t stuck, you probably weren’t doing it in the right way for you and you just need to find the one that works for you. 

Today, I'm going to share with you 9 different goal-setting strategies so we can figure out together which one is the one for you.

The Importance of Setting Goals

First things first, let's just quickly talk about why you should set goals in the first place, which is because it gives you something to work towards and keeps you moving forward. 

Setting goals can help you figure out where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and remind you of what you’re working towards each day.

The beauty of goals is that once you start hitting your smaller goals, is that you can celebrate those things, feel that sense of achievement, be proud of yourself, and then ultimately work your way towards your bigger goals and dreams.

The number one thing I like to remind myself and others is that goal setting is less about achieving the goal itself and is more about the person that you can become on the journey to achieving the goal.

Even if you make a goal to hit 100 sales in a week and don’t hit that goal, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how much more confident you became, or how much better you got at selling on Instagram. It’s not about hitting the goal, it’s about who and what you became on the way there. So just remember that if you don't achieve a goal, that's okay; the lessons you learn along the way are far more important. 

Something else to note is that sometimes being super focused on achieving a goal can be more harmful than helpful, especially when you come close to hitting a goal, but don’t quite get there. 

For example, if you are super focused on reaching 10,000 Instagram followers and don’t meet that goal, you might miss the fact that you reached 9,000 followers. Or if you missed out on your goal of making 10 sales, but totally skipped over the fact that you made 5, which is an incredible achievement regardless! So don't get so fixated on one number, one goal, or one key result.

You also want to remember to make sure that the goals that you are setting are in your control. In the previous example, I used gaining Instagram followers as the goal, however, this is a bad example of a goal because gaining new followers is something that is not in your control. 

So instead of making your goal to gain new followers (which is outside of your control), your goal could be that you are going to connect with 12 brands or 12 people (which is inside your control) who could potentially then introduce you to their audience by the end of this quarter, to help increase your brand visibility. 

How I restructured my goal setting to make better sense for me

Something to know about me is I love a goal, I love a deadline and I'm a very high-achieving, self-drive, and self-motivated person.

I’ve always loved to give myself goals with deadlines and set myself high expectations, however, since becoming chronically ill, my capacity has completely changed and I can no longer meet those deadlines or expectations that I used to be able to achieve.

For a while there, I wasn’t letting myself accept that. I tried convincing myself that I had the same capacity and could achieve anything I set my mind to, but sure enough, I was setting my goals based on my previous capacity (which I no longer had) and was therefore setting myself up for failure. 

I had to change how I set my goals (and expectations too), to better fit where I’m at now, compared to where I was back then, which was an important lesson for me to learn, and possibly one for you to learn too. 

In fact, the two lessons I think we can all learn from this is:

  1. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Be realistic with your expectations of yourself.
  2. Don’t be afraid to change how you set goals as you change, grow, and evolve

Now let’s look at the 9 different goal-setting strategies to help you visualise and reach your dreams in a way that works for you!

These 9 strategies are all tried and tested by yours truly, however, it’s important to remember that everyone sets goals differently and what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. It’s about trying a technique, seeing how it works, and if it doesn’t work, you change it, or you try something else until you find what’s going to work for you!

It’s not about following what everyone else is doing or getting sucked into the hustle culture around goals. We’re going to be kind to ourselves, be realistic with our expectations, set goals in a healthy way, and achieve cool shit. Cause we're amazing, creative people who can achieve some better stuff and still be nice to ourselves. 

Agreed? Okay, cool. Let's talk about some goals. 

9 Goal setting strategies for creatives: how to visualise & reach your dreams in a way that works for you

Number One: S.M.A.R.T Goals

You’ve probably heard of the term “S.M.A.R.T goals” before. It is the most popular way to set goals, which is to make your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

Specific means that you need to explain what you mean. The more specific and detailed you can be, the better. 

Your goal wouldn’t be “grow my Instagram”, it would be “reach 1,000 followers” or “post 4 times weekly in October”.

Measurable means that you need to know when you've achieved it. It needs to be something you can measure with a number, a statistic or something measurable. 

Achievable also means it needs to be realistic. So yeah, shoot for the stars, but also make sure it is realistic.

Relevant means that it needs to be related to your overall business and brand goals. Make sure it's tied in with your overall vision, and your overall mission, and is relevant to everything else that you're doing. 

Time-bound means that it has a deadline or an end date that is easily recognisable.

You wouldn’t say “I want to run a marathon”, you would say “My goal is to run a marathon by the end of the year”. 

S.M.A.R.T goals are simple, practical, very easy to follow, and also very structured, which is great if you feel like you need a straightforward formula to follow.

You can use this structure with any goal: personal, business, creativity, or whatever you want. You can make any goal smart. 

Number Two: KPIs 

KPIs are key performance indicators and our second way of goal setting. KPIs are numbers but are not the same as just a straight metric. I recorded a podcast episode last month where I talked about metrics and those being straight numbers, which could look like your open rate being 50% (which is a statistic and just a number, whereas a key performance indicator is a goal and might look like “increase open rates by 5% this quarter”).

One is a statistic, one is a goal.

Your KPI isn’t just a number, it’s a goal to work towards, one that you can see whether you achieved it or not. 

These are used very often in corporate settings, but I've used them before in my business and they can be very helpful especially if you're into numbers, statistics, and metrics.

Number Three: Rocks

Another super common goal-setting method is “Rocks”. I learned this method from the book Traction by Gino Wickman, which I wouldn't recommend to everybody as it’s a very corporate book, however, it does have very helpful and practical tips for structuring your business and running your business. So I learned a lot of stuff about tracking things, setting goals, having meetings, and all of that kind of stuff. But the method I want to highlight from this book is “Rocks”.

Rocks is based on the idea that if you have a jar, fill it with sand, and then try to put your big rocks in, there won’t be any room. But if you put your big rocks in first and then any smaller pebbles that you had next, you would then be able to fill in the remaining space with any sand.

The idea is that in your business, you should set and focus on your big goals first, then add your smaller pebbles (aka goals) and then the less important stuff like the sand. Each quarter you have up to 8 rocks and then at the end of the quarter, you check in to see whether those rocks are completed or not.

In Traction they also split up those rocks within departments, and then each rock has an owner. If you have a team, that means that different people in your team could “own” those rocks. And then if you have different departments in your business, then they could be owned by different departments. But regardless of whether you have a big team or not, this method is super helpful for breaking up your projects and goals and being able to track them and check in with them each quarter.

Number Four: The weekly scorecard

This method is also from the book Traction, and is basically a Google sheet or Excel spreadsheet (or you could use Airtable etc if you wanted!) and inside this sheet you track your metrics weekly or monthly, to set and track your goals.

You set which metrics you want to track, for example, inquiries, followers, or income, then set your goals for them, and track the numbers. It’s very straightforward because you don’t have to interpret the numbers at all, you’re simply just inputting the numbers and tracking as you go.

This is perfect for you if you’re the type of person who likes things very simple, very “black & white” and easy to follow (and manage!). Write in your numbers, track your numbers and repeat. Simple!

Number Five: Brand goals

There are 8 different brand goals that you could have for your business; 8 different key brand objectives that you could focus on depending on what you're trying to achieve in your business. 

Strategy and clarity focus on establishing an identity for your brand. Visibility is focusing on growing your audience. Awareness is focusing on improving how your brand is recalled in your industry. Recognition is focusing on making your brand memorable. Engagement is focusing on increasing engagement within your brand. Loyalty is improving how many people come back to your business again and again. And then Advocacy is increasing recommendations for your brand.

Are brand goals your jam? Learn more about them in this guide!

Number Six: Objectives and key results

I learned this goal-setting method from my friend Amie, and it is another corporate way of doing things, however, it is a commonly used goal-setting strategy in business. 

So objectives refer to your overall goal, which is what needs to be achieved. And then the key result is how you get to the objective.

For example, your objective might be to get accepted into the YouTube Partner Program. Your key results for that would be to reach 1,000 subscribers and hit 4,000 public watch hours because those are the requirements for getting accepted into the YouTube Partner Program.

So you set an objective and you set a goal. You set several key results, usually two or three key results for that objective, and that's how you know that the objective was achieved. 

Number Seven: Intentions

If goals aren’t for you, intentions might be. So instead of setting goals, you can set intentions, which are a lot less structured than any of the other ways of setting goals. 

These might be things like journaling more often, sewing some clothes, and trying to take a week off every 12 weeks-ish. They’re things you intend to do, and if you don’t do them, that’s okay, but if you do do them, that’s great! 

So you could set some intentions if you want some lower-stakes ways of setting goals too.

Number Eight: Set key focuses

This is what I'm doing now, which is just having two or three key focuses that are the main things that I want to focus on without deadlines, and everything else isn't really important. When I finish something, I can add something else to my list of key focuses. 

I just have a list of my key focuses (which is really just a post-it note on my computer screen) and that’s it! Anything else doesn't matter. 

Number Nine: Vision boards

If you’re a visual person, which you probably are (you’re a creative after all!), then this might be a goal-setting method that works better for you. This could be an overall vision board for your whole life or your whole business, or, if you have a specific goal in mind, then you could create a vision board for just that. 

Once you’ve created your vision board, you want to put it somewhere that you’ll see it all the time. And that could be all the motivation that you need, to keep you moving!

So that’s it folks, 9 different goal-setting strategies to help you visualise & reach your dreams in a way that works for you!

I hope that one (or more) of these sounds more appealing to you than lots of the “wanky” goal-setting methods you’ll find on Google or in hustle culture. Give one a go, and see how you like it! If you have any questions about any of them, please reach out to me on Instagram @makerandmoxie and let me know. I’m happy to talk about any of the options and answer any questions you have about them.

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September 27, 2023

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